Two days after becoming the top scorer in North Carolina’s storied history, Tyler Hansbrough heads to the arena where the program’s most famous alumnus has been immortalized.
The site where Michael Jordan’s statue welcomes all visitors is where Hansbrough and the top-ranked Tar Heels head on Saturday as they face struggling Valparaiso at the United Center in the Windy City Hoops Classic.
Jordan only spent three seasons at North Carolina (10-0)—his stay ended more than a year before Hansbrough was born in 1985—so he never approached the career scoring record set by Phil Ford. While the six-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls scored 17.7 points during per game his collegiate career, Hansbrough has averaged more than that in each of his four seasons with the Tar Heels.
The reigning National Player of the Year broke Ford’s 30-year-old mark of 2,290 points on Thursday, reaching 2,302 by scoring 20 in a 91-73 home win over Evansville.
“I never dreamed I’d be here and be the all-time leading scorer,” Hansbrough told the Smith Center crowd in a postgame speech at midcourt. “This is a great honor to be here and to represent you guys every night in this uniform.”
After plenty of hype was created as he approached the record, the humble Hansbrough surely will be happy to see the focus go back to simply winning games.
“One thing for me, I didn’t want us to strictly focus on trying to break a scoring record,” he said. “We had a game and I was trying to do whatever I could to help the team.”
He’s done plenty to help since getting healthy, having played three straight games for the first time this season after going in-and-out of the lineup with leg injuries. He’s had at least 20 points and nine rebounds in each of those games, bringing his season averages to 22.3 points and 7.5 boards.
“Tyler really does care about all this stuff and he knows what he accomplished is pretty special,” said Tar Heels senior guard Bobby Frasor, who returns to his native Chicago area for this game.
Valparaiso (3-6) is very familiar with how Hansbrough can dominate. He had 23 points and 13 rebounds against the Crusaders on Dec. 30 last season in a 90-58 victory.
It was the first meeting between the schools, and this one isn’t expected to go any better for a Valparaiso team which has lost six of seven. Last season’s Crusaders squad entered its matchup versus North Carolina with a 10-2 record.
While Valpo averages only 61.4 points, the Tar Heels rank second nationally with 96.7 per game. They’ve been particularly impressive offensively over the last seven games, averaging 102.9 points and shooting 53.9 percent from the field.
North Carolina has five players averaging more points than Crusaders leading scorer Urule Igbavoa, who averages 10.0 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds.
At least one edge for Valparaiso is that this game is being played about an hour from its northern Indiana campus, whereas last year’s matchup was in Chapel Hill. However, Valpo has lost the only two games it’s played at the United Center.
This is the fourth time in five seasons the Crusaders have played the No. 1 team in the country, and they are 0-9 against top five teams in the past decade — none of those games were decided by fewer than 18 points.